I remember in the second or third grade, we were asked by our teachers to make name tags for our desks (I think it was one of those first days of school things). I drew some clouds and a rainbow on mine, and I was really proud of myself. Then I noticed that the boy beside me had copied the exact same thing on his. Now, this was a boy that I didn't really like, and he was a bit of a troublemaker at school. I remember being really annoyed at him that he had copied my
cool idea. I think I ignored him for the rest of elementary school, because I don't remember ever getting to know him that well, but reading this book recently (in my 20's now), just made me think of that moment, and of elementary school friends and kid dynamics. Kids can be pretty mean to those they don't understand.
[b:There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom|6413037|There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom|Lisa Abel|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348922156s/6413037.jpg|6602006] is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, as it tells the story of Bradley Chalkers, bully and class outcast, as he slowly learns to put himself out there, make friends, and try in school, with the help of a new counselor, Carla. The book opens with a classroom scene: Bradley sits in the farthest corner of the room, and when a new kid needs a desk, there's no available spots except ones beside and in front of him. The teacher openly states that "nobody likes sitting... there." What kind of teacher says
stuff like that, you think. But it quickly becomes clear that Bradley is basically the worst student ever - he doesn't listen, he doesn't do any work, he makes up outlandish excuses for everything.
While this is a kid's book, it's still one that I love today and I feel that it's very accessible to older readers. There are no villains in this novel, and I think that older readers will especially be able to understand the viewpoints of the adults around Bradley, from his father, who tells him that if he "keeps it up," he'll end up in jail, to his mother, who's warm but ignores the warning signs in his behaviour, to his older sister, who teases him mercilessly, to even his teacher, who says things like the quote above. But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that each of them do want what's best for him and will offer him the help he needs, if only he would try. Carla, his counselor, is one of my personal literary heroes, though she herself has her own flaws of overstepping boundaries (While sweet, it's probably not appropriate to kiss a student, even just on the cheek, or invite a 10-year-old to a special Saturday lunch, "just the two of us"
). However, I still love her as a character, and I wish that every kid had their own "Carla" to believe in them and help them through the roughness of growing up. I don't want to go too much into the rest of the book, but I think that it shows kids in a very authentic way, can be supremely funny, and is a true gem that I would recommend to anyone.
PS. I would love LOVE to read a book about teenager or early adult Bradley and Jeff and how their friendship has developed.